What Happened to the SEC?

Oct 9, 2017

by Chase Gage

 

The SEC will be (rightfully) considered the best conference in college football until someone proves otherwise, but that day may be fast approaching. The ACC has won two of the last four titles, with the Big 10 grabbing one of those as well. Teams like Penn State and USC are back on the rise, while other like Oklahoma and Ohio State will always be in the mix. Clemson is beginning to make a habit of being a top-5 team. Alabama will reign as the best in college football until Nick Saban hangs it up, but the rest of the SEC is not what it once was.

Before we talk about today’s SEC, let’s take a look at some history. I picked 1992 as a starting point. That was the year that the SEC expanded to 12 teams, which made it eligible for a conference championship game, the first of its kind. That seems like a good starting point for the ‘modern’ SEC if you will.


SEC History

Since 1992 (First SEC Championship Game, Current SEC with Arkansas and South Carolina)

National Championships:

  • 1992: Alabama
  • 1996: Florida
  • 1998: Tennessee
  • 2003: LSU
  • 2006: Florida
  • 2007: LSU
  • 2008: Florida
  • 2009: Alabama
  • 2010: Auburn
  • 2011: Alabama
  • 2012: Alabama
  • 2015: Alabama

 

Conference Titles (Since 1992)
SEC 12
ACC 5
Big 12 4
Big Ten 3
Pac-12 1

National Runner-Up:

  • 1995: Florida (lost to Nebraska)
  • 1997: Tennessee (lost to Nebraska)
  • 2011: LSU (lost to Alabama)
  • 2013: Auburn (lost to Florida State)
  • 2016: Alabama (lost to Clemson)

 

Heisman Winners:

  • 1996: Danny Wuerffel, Florida
  • 2000: Chris Weinke, Florida
  • 2007: Tim Tebow, Florida
  • 2009: Mark Ingram, Alabama
  • 2010: Cam Newton, Auburn
  • 2012: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
  • 2015: Derrick Henry, Alabama

 

2006-Present: 7 Straight National Titles, 8 Straight Appearances, 8 Wins in 10 years, 10 appearances in 11 years (2014 featured Big 10 vs Pac 12)

Notable SEC Championship Games (Two Top-Ten Teams):

  • 1994: 6 Florida vs 3 Alabama
  • 1999: 5 Florida vs 7 Alabama
  • 2003: 5 Georgia vs 3 LSU
  • 2006: 4 Florida vs 8 Arkansas
  • 2008: 2 Florida vs 1 Alabama
  • 2009: 2 Alabama vs 1 Florida
  • 2011: 1 LSU vs 3 Georgia
  • 2012: 2 Alabama vs 3 Georgia
  • 2013: 3 Auburn vs 5 Missouri

 

2011: The Peak of SEC Dominance

Here’s how the best season any conference has ever seen ended up.

  • 1 Alabama
    • National Champion (beat 1 LSU)
    • 12-1, 7-1 SEC (lost to 2 LSU)
  • 2 LSU
    • National Runner-Up (lost to 2 Alabama)
    • 13-1, 8-0 SEC
  • 5 Arkansas
    • Cotton Bowl Champions (Beat 11 Kansas State)
    • 11-2, 6-2 SEC (lost to 1 Alabama and 1 LSU)
  • 9 South Carolina
    • Capital One Bowl Champions (Beat 21 Nebraska)
    • 11-2, 6-2 SEC (lost to Auburn and 8 Arkansas)
  • 19 Georgia
    • Lost Outback Bowl (12 Michigan State)
    • 10-4, 7-1 SEC (lost to 5 Boise State, 12 South Carolina, 1 LSU, 12 Michigan State)

6-3 Bowl Record (LSU lost to Alabama, accounting for one loss. Others were Georgia and Vanderbilt)


Bridging the Gap

From 2006 to 2016, it was overly obvious that the SEC was, by far, the best conference in the NCAA from top to bottom. No one could even make the slightest of arguments against that case. In 2017, though, the conference has taken a free fall. Is this rock bottom?

What happened? Even Rome fell, but it wasn’t overnight. Perhaps this hasn’t been overnight either, and in fact, has been a long time coming. Can the SEC be saved by another Alabama championship? Or will it take more than just that?


The SEC Today (As of Week 7, 2017)

Let’s take a look at how awful the SEC is this year. Outside of the top three or four teams, this conference is doomed. It’s basically Alabama and Georgia and then everyone else. Call these SEC Power Rankings if you want. I call them a disgrace to the conference and its reputation as the best in the nation.

Elite Tier:

1 Alabama

 

bama sucks
Image via seccountry.com

 

  • 6-0, 3-0 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 152-22
  • Best Win: 24-7 vs Florida State
  • Worst Loss: None
  • Top-ranked team in the nation
  • Easy (to say the least) upcoming schedule, featuring Arkansas, Tennessee, Mercer

Alabama is on track to win the SEC West (at least) and should be the favorite to make the College Football Playoff, and presumably the championship. This is the best team in the country and it will stay that way until someone beats them.

 

Contenders:

4 Georgia

  • 6-0, 3-0 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 117-17
  • Best Win: 20-19 at Notre Dame
  • Worst Loss: None
  • Elite defense
  • Favorable upcoming schedule (only one ranked opponent left, 10 Auburn)

Georgia is close to being in the Elite category. They haven’t proved too much yet, but they’ve dominated their schedule thus far. Their schedule indicates that they should have no problem winning the SEC East, and they have a real shot at finishing the regular season undefeated. Go ahead and pencil them in for the SEC Championship. Could they possibly upset Alabama? Could they lose the SEC Championship and still make the CFP? Both may be legitimate possibilities.

 

10 Auburn

cam.jpg
Remeber the good old days? Image via sbnation.com

 

  • 5-1, 3-0 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 144-47
  • Best Win: 49-10 vs Mississippi State
  • Worst Loss: 14-6 at 2 Clemson
  • Haven’t beaten a good team yet (Ole Miss, Miss State, Mizzou, Mercer, Ga Southern)
  • Tough upcoming schedule (at LSU, 4 Georgia, 1 Alabama)

Auburn hasn’t played anyone besides Clemson. Their praise is based off of ‘not losing by that much’ to a great team. They haven’t lost any games to lesser opponents, though, and this season that makes you a solid SEC team (sadly). We won’t find out what Auburn is really made of until they face the big dogs in the SEC toward the end of the season.

 

Decent at Best (in no particular order):

Mississippi State

  • 3-2, 1-2 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 50-87
  • Best Win: 37-7 vs LSU
  • Worst Loss: 49-10 at 10 Auburn
  • Still better than most SEC teams
  • Manageable upcoming schedule (only ranked team is 1 Alabama)

MSU looked great when they beat LSU. Turns out, LSU isn’t as good as we thought they were. This is a team that will still likely finish third in the West, because who else is going to?

 

Florida

  • 3-2, 3-1 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 108-102
  • Best Win: 26-20 vs Tennessee
  • Worst Loss: 17-16 vs LSU
  • Haven’t showed any signs of greatness
  • Favorable schedule (besides Georgia and FSU)

Florida got stomped by Michigan, then barely beat a bad Tennessee team, then needed a miracle to beat Kentucky before falling at home to LSU 17-16. Sounds like they’re still the second-best team in the East. Yeah, the SEC is THAT bad this year.

 

Kentucky

  • 5-1, 2-1 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 116-75
  • Best Win: 23-13 at South Carolina
  • Worst Loss: 28-27 vs Florida
  • Salty offense, stingy defense
  • Very favorable schedule (besides Georgia and Louisville at the end)

Kentucky is the surprise SEC team this year. They’re better than you think, but not much better than they have been in the past. They’ve stayed static while the rest of the conference has regressed. This is a team that can easily finish third in the East, if not higher, this year. They’re not a team that will make much noise on the national stage, but let them have their moment.

 

LSU

  • 4-2, 1-1 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 24-53
  • Best Win: 17-16 at Florida
  • Worst Loss: 24-21 vs Troy
  • Bounced back after facing adversity
  • Rough schedule (Auburn, at Alabama)

The Tigers was able to bounce back after embarrassing losses to Mississippi State and Troy by beating Florida. Now they’ll face two top-ten teams in three weeks before their easy stretch (Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M) to finish the season. They may compete for third place in the West, but don’t bet on them to impress you in the process.

 

Texas A&M

  • 4-2, 2-1 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 93-87
  • Best Win: 50-43 (OT) vs Arkansas
  • Worst Loss: 45-44 vs UCLA (after leading 44-10 in the third quarter)
  • Can score against anyone (even Alabama)
  • Not too bad of a schedule (Auburn, at Florida, at LSU)

Is Texas A&M any good? It’s honestly hard to tell. They beat Arkansas and South Carolina, but that’s not saying much. They only lost to Alabama by 8, which is actually rather impressive. They blew a huge lead against UCLA or they would be 5-1 and likely a top-20 team. But are they actually any good? I have no idea.

 

Eh *shrugs*

South Carolina

  • 4-2, 2-2 SEC
  • Outscoring SEC opponents 111-72
  • Best win: 48-22 vs Arkansas
  • Worst Loss: 23-13 vs Kentucky
  • Rough schedule (Georgia, Florida, Clemson)

South Carolina isn’t that good. But they’re not that bad. But they certainly aren’t that good. They won some close games against LA Tech and NC State, and blew Arkansas out this last week. But does that impress you? Texas A&M and Kentucky beat the Gamecocks, but not by much. So they’re alright, but eh. A 7-5 or 6-6 record won’t be too shabby.

 

Vanderbilt

  • 3-3, 0-3 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 38-142 (ouch)
  • Best win: 14-7 vs Kansas State
  • Worst Loss: 59-0 vs 1 Alabama
  • Toughest stretch of schedule is in the rear-view mirror

Vanderbilt may be 0-3 in SEC play, but when you look at who they have faced, you’ll quickly find out why. They faced, in a row, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Two top-four teams and then a solid team at the Swamp. That’s rough. Now, though, their toughest upcoming opponents are Kentucky and South Carolina. That’s always a good sign going forward. Vandy is another one of those teams that will finish between 8-4 and 6-6, but that’s nothing to be excited about or disappointed in.

 

Tennessee

manning
Tennessee used to be good at football. Well, when they had this guy. Image via SI.com

 

  • 3-2, 0-2 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC teams 20-67
  • Best win: 42-41 (2OT) vs Georgia Tech
  • Worst loss: 41-0 vs 4 Georgia
  • Not great, but not too bad of an upcoming schedule

The Vols aren’t good. At all. But they’re not as bad as the other teams yet to come. The only thing keeping them in the “eh” category is their double-overtime win against Georgia Tech. So impressive, right? They were able to hang in there for a while against Florida, but Georgia exposed them for who they really are. This team was ranked for some unknown reason at one point this year. If that isn’t SEC bias, I don’t know what is. Well, I guess Auburn being ranked 10th.

 

Awful. Pitiful. Disgusting. Take your pick.

Arkansas

  • 2-3, 0-2 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 55-98
  • Best win: 42-24 vs New Mexico State
  • Worst loss: 48-22 at South Carolina
  • Dreadful upcoming schedule (the easy stretch is already over)

Where to start. I’ve written several articles about how pitiful the Razorbacks are. There’s nothing to say that I haven’t already. When your best win is New Mexico State (and your second best is Florida A&M), your season is done for. Arkansas has a chance to win two SEC games if they’re lucky. Those two teams are next on the list. Don’t count out an 0-8 conference record, though. It’s a REAL possibility.

 

Ole Miss

  • 2-3, 0-2 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 26-110
  • Best win: 47-27 vs South Alabama
  • Worst loss: 66-3 at Alabama
  • Not too rough of an upcoming schedule

The Rebels are bad. Really bad. Their two SEC games have been against top-ten teams, though. I’ll give them that. They will likely end up with an SEC victory or two, and just because they are after Arkansas on this list does not mean that they are necessarily worse. They’re equally bad. When South Alabama and UT Martin are your celebration points, you’ve got a lot of work to do.

 

Missouri

  • 1-4, 0-3 SEC
  • Outscored by SEC opponents 61-122
  • Best win: 72-43 vs Missouri State
  • Worst loss: 35-3 vs Purdue
  • It doesn’t matter who they’ve got coming up.

The Tigers are awful. They’re the Browns of the SEC. They’d be the Nets if they were in the NBA. Remember when Florida International went 0-12 like five years in a row? Probably not (because who would?), but that’s how bad this Missouri team is. 1-11, 2-10, even 3-9. What difference does it make?

 

mizzou
Yeah, I’d say that sums up their season. Image via imagemoved.wordpress.com

 

 

*Featured Image via secsports.com*

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